Friday, July 18, 2008

Campbell and culture

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Gregory Campbell (DUP), was blunt when talking to the Londonderry Sentinel about linguistic matters Irish and Ulster-Scots. He told the Sentinel that he was determined that there would be equal funding for Irish and Ulster-Scots.

Campbell said: “There still appears to be some misunderstanding around this issue. It was the St Andrews Agreement just over 15 months ago, where the British Government talked to Sinn Fein about the implementation of the Irish Language Act. Neither Sinn Fein, the British Government, mentioned the possibility of an Irish Language Act to us.

“Therefore, whenever we saw it, we said, and the record shows that at St Andrews, at the conclusion of the conference, we issued a statement with a whole range of issues in it and one of them was the reference to the Irish language Act where we said ‘We have not been approached, we have not been asked, and presumably the reason why we haven't been is because people knew what the answer would be - that we would be against it’.

“It doesn't need an Irish Language Act, and my position as the Minister responsible is to say to people, very simply, in cultural terms there are two big blocks. One is an Irish language or an Irish cultural enthusiasts and people who want to adopt that and that’s perfectly legitimate. The Government supports them in doing that and gives them money.

“Then there is the Ulster Scots cultural outlook, and that’s perfectly legitimate as well. Neither of the two of them are greater than the other. They are both perfectly legitimate expressions of cultural outlook by large numbers of people in Northern Ireland.

“The problem has been that up until very recently the Irish cultural identity received tens of thousands, more, tens of millions of pounds more than the Ulster Scots tradition. So my objective, whenever looking at comments that people make like us disparaging the Irish language Act, is to turn it round and say “No, what you've go to do is you’ve got to look at the public funding of these two cultural outlooks and you see a huge disparity.”

“My ambition and objective is going to be to eliminate that disparity. People have sat and talked and protested about inequality. Well, they are going to get equality, now they might not like getting that equality, but they are going to get it.”

An optimist might see some cause for hope in Campbell’s observation that both Irish and Ulster-Scots are “are both perfectly legitimate expressions of cultural outlook by large numbers of people in Northern Ireland”. They are indeed. What they are not, however, are simple matters of green and orange territory – as the DUP and Sinn Féin would like to suggest. Further, to argue that Ulster-Scots deserves the same funding with Irish is simply without merit. The two sectors simply cannot be compared as like and like – and throwing money at any language is not best practice.

Worse, however, is Campbell’s belligerent tone: “Well, they are going to get equality, now they might not like getting that equality, but they are going to get it.” Compare and contrast that statement to the one made by the Minister for the Gaeltacht, Éamon Ó Cuív, at the beginning for this month after a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council. Ó Cuív green-lighted a £1 million for Ulster-Scots and spoke of his joy at having had a “positive” meeting with Campbell. He was very happy to give extra funding towards Ulster-Scots. It would seem that the meeting was not as positive as Ó Cuív would have us believe.

It does not bode well.


bill said...

As an Ulster-Scot, could you please tell me what the Hell Campbell is talking about. My understanding that the first sound involved in DUP is Duh! is further reinforced. Please enlighten me.

B.U. said...

Only an idiot with a pathetic political agenda could regard Ulster-Scots as a language in its own right. Irish Gaelic is a very old, distinct language. At best, Ulster-Scots is a local dialect of English; at worst it's just some bloke from Ahoghill taking the piss.

JC Skinner said...

Sorry to shout, but it's my taxpayer euro AND pounds being pissed up the wall on this farce.

Concubhar said...

This isn't about Ulster Scots Language. What Campbell intends to do and what is already being done by the Ulster Scots Agency is to fund Ulster Scots 'culture'. Under this umbrella it includes Orange Order songs - in English - and funding for bands. I once heard an interview on radio with Mícheál O Muircheartaigh, one time chairman of Bórd na Gaeilge, the precursor for Foras na Gaeilge. He said that he had advised the likes of Nelson McCausland to broaden the scope of the Ulster Scots "Language' movement to include culture. This advice seems to have been taken on board - to costly effect.

Anonymous said...

Well said B.U.

Anonymous said...

I heard a man on TV the other day talking in Lincolnshire dialect - he would have needed to be translated - much more difficult to understand the Ulster-scots which is used by nearly everyone in NI though we don't even know as it has become part of the lingo!